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Kentucky Senate budget bill sets limits on medical cannabis oversight spending

The Kentucky Senate included language into the main budget plan that would provide prerequisites for releasing funds for managing the state’s medicinal cannabis program, which is slated to begin in 2025.

As House and Senate leaders convened in public on Monday to finalize the state’s next two-year budget, the two phrases that the senators had inserted came up for debate. The disparities in the extensive spending plans approved by the House and Senate were examined by lawmakers line by line. In both chambers, Republicans hold supermajorities.  

According to the Senate version, the Office of Medical Cannabis cannot get funding until peer-reviewed, published research demonstrates “conclusive evidence as to the efficacy of medical cannabis for the persistent reduction of symptoms of diseases and conditions.” This study must be published.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, stated that the clause represented the opinions of senators who wish to guarantee that “we have research coming out that’s appropriate to fund” the medical marijuana office.

The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee chairman, McDaniel, stated, “We’re waiting on data that tells us that this is effective—we’re not stripping the funding.” “And so we’re just putting a quick pause on that to make sure that we have the appropriate information.”

To support the office’s employment and operations, the Senate budget allocated, subject to certain restrictions, about $10.3 million in state general funds over two years and approximately $4.9 million in other monies. The money was the same as in the version approved by the House, but the Senate’s suggested restrictions were not added.

Leading proponent of Kentucky’s medicinal marijuana legalization, Republican Representative Jason Nemes, declared following the vote that he would argue against including the Senate’s provision in the final funding bill. Among those attending the budget conference are Nemes and McDaniel.

According to McDaniel, the Senate’s language shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to the state’s medical marijuana program’s implementation.

“This won’t slow anything down if the program’s supporters have the evidence they claim to have,” he stated in an interview following the conference committee meeting. “It would only slow it down if they can’t prove the things that they have claimed in open committee they can prove.”

Supporters finally succeeded in passing a measure last year to legalize and regulate medicinal marijuana, and Democratic Governor Andy Beshear signed it into law after years of futile attempts. Despite opposition from some of the Senate’s most powerful members, including McDaniel and Senate President Robert Stivers, the legislation passed the chamber. One important person on the budget conference committee is Stivers.

The law permits the prescription of medicinal marijuana for a number of ailments, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, persistent nausea, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It would be against the law to sell smoked cannabis products. To use a card, one would need to be approved for one.

Regarding the suggested Senate criteria, Beshear’s staff remained silent on Monday. Leading the charge to legalize medicinal marijuana, the governor last Thursday revealed further developments in establishing the program’s regulatory structure. The program is scheduled to launch on January 1, 2025

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